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Two Remarkable Leaders: Meet MFP’s News Editor Ashton Pittman and Senior Reporter Kayode Crown

I met Ashton Pittman in person in 2018 at Hal & Mal’s. I had flown in a state reporter candidate from New York City who happened to be gay. Ashton was already freelancing some for me and the Jackson Free Press from South Mississippi, but I’d never met him. The staff gathered at Hal & Mal’s in Jackson to meet the candidate. I invited Ashton and his husband, Liam, to drive up in no small part to answer any candid LGBTQ+ questions the candidate might have about Mississippi.

That night, my journalism partnership with Ashton and Liam began. It was clear from our conversation how much Ashton and I thought alike, how our journalistic values aligned, and how much we all cared about our complicated home state. As Ashton tells it, he and Liam started talking about the possibility that he could work more with me at the JFP. (The NYC job candidate didn’t work out. He realized Mississippi wasn’t right for him, which I understood.)

The rest, as they say, is history. Ashton first worked as a freelance reporter to see how he liked it, commuting for a while to Jackson—and then going on salary. Ashton and I started developing one of those editor-reporter relationships that are magical when you can find them—total mutual respect and dedication to quality, understanding of deadlines, and driven passion for telling the stories no one else will. Many of you know what happened that fall: He broke the story of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smiths attendance at a segregation academy, then sending her daughter to one. That broke open a national conversation about de jure segregation academies in the South and de facto school segregation across the country.

Through Breast Cancer, Senate Races and COVID-19

I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after meeting Ashton that night at Hal & Mal’s. I had a double mastectomy in October 2018 and recovered at home through December before my second surgery in early January slowed me down again. I know now that Ashton’s character, assistance, unselfishness and support through my recovery—I was editing every JFP story daily

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